Is Clutter Sabotaging Your Job Search?

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In 2008, Peter Walsh’s diet book asked the overweight population, “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” Clutter is unsettling, and when overeaters are unsettled, they can calm their nerves by eating. Simple premise, but clutter is counter-productive to weight loss efforts.

I don’t know if his solution is the secret to lasting weight loss, but the fact that clutter is unsettling and distracting is true. If your job search has lost momentum, or you find yourself trying to “tidy up” your office or work area for hours before settling down to sending out applications, your clutter can be dragging down your job search efforts.   The New Year is a great time for getting organized, and de-cluttering your life might just help your job search success.

1.      Your work space. Does it take time to find your laptop or keyboard? Clear the piles of papers off your desk or work table?  If you don’t have files, get a box of file folders and separate those papers into:

a. Job postings – tear them out of the papers or print them out from online postings. Put dates on the top --- the day you printed them out and the date due.
b. Jobs applied for – print out a copy of your application and attach it to the posting from “a” above. Write the date you applied for the job and then the date one and two weeks from submission for follow up. Put these dates into your Blackberry, Smartphone, or digital calendar to remind you to follow up.
c. Responses – “No thank you” letters or further inquiries. Again, attach these to the corresponding paperwork from “b” above.
d. Interviews – Yeah! Attach the corresponding paperwork from “b” for this file. Start your homework, and attach any information from research. Printed materials are great when you have to wait for an interview or get stuck in traffic.
e. Acceptances – You may or may not take a job offer. Keep these separate, also.

2.     Work with your files, not stacks of paper everywhere. It may take awhile, but it saves a lot of time.

3.     Work at your job search in the same place every day. You may have found a great job and written it down on the corner of an envelope, but you can spend 30 stressed-out minutes figuring out where you were when you wrote it down. Designate one area as your “office” and you won’t have to be searching the house for an important phone number or contact name.

4.     Clean out your pockets, portfolio, handbag or briefcase of grocery lists, coupons, Kleenex and other stuff cluttering your personal stuff.

5.     Find the best time management tool and use it. Whether it’s electronic or paper and pencil, choose one and put everything in one place – contact information, notes, resume files, appointments, etc. It’s easy to miss an appointment when you wrote it on a post-it note that fell out of your monthly planner.

6.     De-clutter your vehicle. I once had a hiring manager ask me to drive to meet a manager at another location and was embarrassed by the magazines and empty water bottles cluttering the passenger seat.

Organize your life and space, and you just might find you’re more effective, productive and positive about your job search and prospects.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients reinvent their careers for today’s job market. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt.


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